I won't join the pack of those berating what the dinner has become (I've done that in the past, and Tom Brokaw does it so well anyway). But I do miss the way it was. Because I think what it was, was more a reflection of what Washington should be than what it's become. It has become, in a sense, the Hollywood-infused White House Correspondents Association, red-carpet dinner.
In the old days, the dinner was aimed at reporters and their sources or subjects of their stories. An evening to let down your hair, share a dinner and drinks, enjoy some entertainment including the president making fun of himself, and get to know each other, peeling away the anger and battle of the past weeks.
Today, fewer reporters and their sources actually go. Their seats have been taken by the flavor of the moment in pop culture, some of the top Hollywood stars/cause leaders, such as Barbra Streisand, and lots of advertisers because
the dinner now is an opportunity for media companies to "build their brand" and impress those who fund those brands. So those advertisers can sit next to big stars rather than formerly ink-stained reporters.
The battles of the work week are not forgotten, because there are fewer of the combatants there to make peace. Just one more rip in the fabric of what Washington was, and I think should be -- a place for progress to be made and problems to be solved for the people of the country.
I live a few blocks from where the major pre-dinner big brunch is held. I walked by there today. There were 15 valets waiting to park big limos and black SUVs, average citizens staking out the entrance so they might steal a peek at the Hollywood stars attending, and there were the well-appointed young women checking names at the gate.
I was tempted to try to get in to the party (that I once had been invited to but couldn't buy my way in today). I didn't
try. I envisioned the brief conversation with the young woman at the gate:
Me: Hi, I'm B. Jay Cooper.
Her: You're not on the list.
Me: Don't you know who I am?
Her: Yes, I do. You're not on the list.